Let’s Get Uncomfortable!

I hear this phrase at the gym and I find it difficult to get out of my comfort zone. After work, the last thing I want to do is get my heart rate up and sweat. I give a dirty look to the coach but I keep working till my heart rate goes up and up some more.


At ASC, we have been exploring and sharing our thoughts on race, class and culture.

More importantly, we’ve been listening and learning. There are a lot of uncomfortable subjects I have been dancing around, avoiding, regarding race and class. I know I need to start speaking up and getting uncomfortable with these conversations. I am willing to. Growth happens in the spaces where we dare to get uncomfortable.

I was on a video call recently with a Black birth family. I have been supporting them through a reconnection with their daughter’s (white) adoptive parents. They shared with me life had gotten in the way of staying in contact with their birth daughter and her parents. They admitted they had not been as good at keeping in touch. I made sure they knew it was ok. There is no judgement. Birth parents have a difficult road to walk after placement. Navigating grief. And, raising other children. Surviving.

She (birth mom) asked if I could help them reconnect. She wants her daughter to know she loves her and wants her to know her brothers too. I sat and looked at their faces. Their long braids, dark skin and the way they spoke. I saw a beautiful family. I saw their race and their culture. The love. I listened to the way they spoke about why they placed their daughter for adoption four years ago. He was not in the position to help her. She was not in the position to parent on her own. This was her 3rd baby in 4 years. Today they sit and say, “we never thought we would reconcile and be able to give our birth daughter the experience of her first parents and siblings all together. We just want to see her and allow her to know us.”


The image of them brought so much emotion to me. I could not stop the tears that came. Birth mama had to step away from the camera as she was so overcome with grief. Birth dad then said, “if you could just ask them to update us, let us get to know each other and allow our children to all play, it would be awesome.”


I work on these re-connections often. This one felt even more important. Especially at this time. It wasn’t just about connecting two families, this adoptee to her birth family. It was about connecting a child to her roots. Her history. Her culture. Her race.

When I contact adoptive families to reconnect or request updates, I am often challenging them to get uncomfortable.

Many are ready to hop on board. To take this journey. Others need more help and support. That’s what we’re here for. Stepping out of our comfort zone is the best shot we have at growth and healing. Especially for the adoptees we love and support.


I’m continuing to show up at the gym most days. Through sweat (and some pain) I’m walking into the uncomfortable, and you know what? I’m getting stronger.

We’re doing the same thing here at ASC. Challenging ourselves to step outside our comfort zone. To have the difficult conversations. To push a little when needed. We’re seeing growth. And, healing. Let’s continue to get uncomfortable. Together. It may not always be easy. But, it will be worth it.


Adoption Language

Language in adoption is constantly changing. And, it varies greatly. Until recently, we had been using the concept of “positive” adoption language.

Once we started listening closely and more attentively to birth parents and adoptees, we know there is a problem with referring to adoption language as “positive.”

While we and others in the field of adoption may have had good intentions, “positive” adoption language can lead others to believe adoption is just that. All positive. But, adoption is more complex then the historical narrative. Like many others, we want to move away from this concept of “positive” adoption language and more towards adoption language that is honest, accurate and neutral. The thoughts and ideas below are not new. Birth parents and adoptees are speaking out about adoption language and in what direction it should be heading. We want to let you know we are listening and moving in that direction with you. 

To us, HONEST adoption language is very important.

It leaves room for words many are afraid to put next to, heck, anywhere close to, the word adoption. Grief. Loss. Trauma. Complexity. For adoption language to be honest it must encompass more then just the happy, feel good phrases, so often attached to adoption. Adoption is love. Adoption is family. Adoption rocks. Love makes a family. Is adoption about a broader definition of family? Yes. Is there life, love, hope and joy in adoption? Yes, we think there is! We see it. But, right next to it is the grief, loss and trauma. There isn’t one without the other. Honest adoption language creates space for both.

Adoption language needs to be ACCURATE.

Decades ago the phrase, “put her baby up for adoption,” was commonly used. When you really think about that phrase, what does “put up” mean? If you research this term, you’ll likely find more about it’s historical context and where it came from. It’s outdated and inaccurate. In more recent years, and even today, people will use the phrase a woman, “gave her baby up,” for adoption. This can infer that she herself “gave up” or “gave away ” her child. A potentially more accurate term/phrase describing the parenting decision a mother makes is “she placed her child for adoption.” Adoption professionals, adoptive parents and non members of the triad should use “placed” instead of “put up” or “gave up.” It is important to note: if a birth parent or adoptee ever identifies more with the latter, they should be given the room to use the language that most resonates with them and their adoption. 

NEUTRAL adoption language leaves room for birth parents and adoptees to name their own unique experiences and feelings related to their adoption.

Here is one example. Adoption professionals, adoptive parents and non members of the triad often refer to birth mothers as brave and selfless. We’ve used (and use) these words often. And, we believe them. We witness the love birth mothers have for the child(ren) they place. We see the sacrifice they make. The pain they endure. Their strength and courage is incredible. However, some birth mothers do not identify with being brave and/or selfless. They see their decision as selfish, or both in different ways. Do we think an outsider looking in should tell her she is a coward, selfish, only thinking of herself? Absolutely not. It’s unlikely they would know the true depths of her and her story to cast that kind of judgement. At this time, we’re moving towards describing the decision a birth mother makes to place her child as difficult. Because it is an incredibly difficult decision she has likely spent a great deal of time exploring, thinking about and planning for. It is not a decision she has taken lightly. And choosing a different word(s) doesn’t mean she isn’t brave or selfless. It leaves more room for her to decide.

A thought on referring to birth mothers as brave. A question to ask ourselves? If we call a birth mother brave, are we saying she is only so if she places her child for adoption? Is she also brave if she chooses to parent? Words matter. They have meaning. We won’t always get it right. The key is to keep leaning in, listening and learning. And then, having a willingness to change and grow.

Person first language in adoption is something to consider using.

It does just that. Puts the person first. There may be times when an adoptive parent has to distinguish that her child is adopted or between her adopted child(ren) and biological child(ren). This is not always necessary but in the case an identifier is needed, what if you put the person first?! They are first and foremost your child. They are your child through adoption and/or your child through biology. The same could go for identifying as an adoptive parent. “I am a parent through adoption.” First and foremost a parent. Through adoption. Being an adopted person or an adoptive parent is a part of a person’s identity. Not the entire sum of who they are. Person first language recognizes a person is more then just one thing and leaves room for all the parts of our identity.

Adoption language is more complex then could ever fit into one blog. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The key is to leave room for continual learning and growth. Being willing to recognize and admit when certain language is no longer working. And then, change it! Maybe even change it again! We also have to leave room for birth parents and adoptees to choose and use the language they most identify with. Even if it’s not the language adoption professionals, adoptive parents and non triad members are using. We’ve heard birth parents and adoptees use a myriad of terms in adoption: birth mom/dad/siblings, first mom/dad, biological mom/dad/siblings, family of origin, family of experience, adoptive mom/dad/siblings. The list could go on and on. There is room for diverse, inclusive, honest, accurate, person first, neutral adoption language! And, there is room to change it as we go! 


A perfect day to say Thank You…

Let me set the scene. I was very pregnant. Probably 7-8 months. I was starting to experience some swelling and water retention, pre eclamptic. Likely not feeling the best. Hormonal. Uncomfortable. Testy.

Our ASC team was at our weekly staff meeting.

I can’t remember exactly what we were discussing. And really, the specifics don’t matter. The room started to heat up. Tensions rising. As can sometimes happen when a handful of strong, smart, opinionated women are working together. It’s why we’re good at what we do. I was sharing my heart, my passion for the birth mothers. Specifically the ones I’ve walked with and sat next to in their trauma. Julie was sharing from the business side of adoption.

Side Note: Yes, ASC is a business. We’re not afraid to say that. There are things to consider when running a business. If we didn’t do that, we would not still be here, able educate and support all sides of the triad. I’ve heard one birth mother speak on this before (Ashley Mitchell,  @BigToughGirl). She talks about how women are going to keep choosing adoption. A lot would have to change for that to change. That’s a discussion for another blog. So, if women are going to keep choosing adoption, hopefully agencies and attorneys will then serve them well. Ethically. Compassionately. With life long support. Our goal is never to convince a woman to choose adoption. Our goal is hopefully the women who are considering adoption and then the ones who ultimately place, find us or an organization like us. One trying to do right by them. Again, all of this is a topic for another blog, but I think worth acknowledging here when you put the words adoption and business side by side.

Back to the day in question. As Julie and I shared from two different perspectives, I quickly lost it. I am a passionate person when it comes to my work. My energy can become frenetic. My voice raises. I talk fast. On this day, I took it to another level. I’d say it was an out of body experience. I don’t remember much of it. I began yelling. Some profanities spewing out of my mouth. I quickly stormed out and got in my car. Presley ran after me, as they were worried my emotional, pregnant self was now setting out in the car. More profanities exited my mouth. Amanda was back inside crying. We all say if Kathryn had been there, maybe it wouldn’t have escalated to this point. She keeps us all grounded and in check ;). My husband still doesn’t believe me. He thinks I exaggerate this story and how I acted. Ron, I promise you, it was as bad, if not worse then I’ve described.

In many places of business, you’d be fired if you acted the way I did. That’s not the case here. I apologized to Julie. She acknowledge my feelings and my heart. We moved forward.

Julie founded ASC in 1986.

She was an adoptive mother and wanted to start changing things in adoption. She had a vision of more support for all members of the triad. Later, when her daughter (through adoption), Lauren, struggled with her identity as an adoptee, Julie was the one paving the way for her. Making a safe space for Lauren to search for her birth family. Sitting next to her in her grief and trauma and then in her joy and peace when she reunified. I often ask Julie how she did it. She was ahead of her time as an adoptive parent. Julie has told me on numerous occasions, “There was no room for insecurity and/or fear (many adoptive parents experience) when it came to supporting Lauren.”

Julie hasn’t always gotten it right in this work. None of us have. How could we? Adoption is ever changing. We’re learning as we go. Sometimes faster then we can keep up! But I can say this with 100 percent certainty. Julie has always been willing to listen and learn. And then, change and grow. And thus, ASC has always been willing to do the same. It’s why we’re still here. It’s why I’m still here. Why I still believe in this work, this incredibly difficult work, we are doing.

Julie lost her daughter, Lauren, in a car accident, suddenly and tragically, in 2005. I have no doubt if Lauren were still here she’d be one of the strong, courageous, trailblazing adoptees on social media sharing her story. Hoping to help future generations of adoptees and adoptive parents. I can picture she and Julie sitting next to each other, educating the adoption community together. I imagine her calling Julie out on the things she did wrong ;), and thanking her for the things she did right. Lauren would be leading us right now. I have no doubt about that. I never got the chance to meet her, and I miss her. I know she’s looking down, proud of her mom. I hope she’s proud of us too. 

Why am I sharing all of this today? Both taking a trip down memory lane and looking towards the future. Today is Julie’s birthday! She’s 60 some years young ;). I think it’s a perfect day to say thank you.

Thank you for leading us. For paving the way. Even when you/we didn’t or don’t get it right, you’re ready to make changes. To grow! Thank you for trusting us, this next generation at ASC. When we recently asked to set aside some funds for continuing education on transracial adoption and post placement support (as we move into this next era in adoption) you didn’t bat an eye. Your YES was on the table. Thank you for that. We wouldn’t be here without you Julie, and we wouldn’t be going forward without you. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. And, happy birthday!

With love and gratitude, Alli (and all of your ASC ladies J)


“He Has Never Asked”

After 22 years and 100’s of adoptions, they are coming back for answers. I started leading ASC’s post placement team in January this year. Once I dug in, I realized how much of a need there is. We have only just began to scratch the surface of my dreams for this project. I believe this is the most important work we do.

The adoptions of my past, of the agency’s past, shhhh, our mistakes, is what keeps me digging in. I feel somewhat responsible. I did nothing intentionally wrong, ASC and other adoption agency’s did nothing intentionally wrong. We did not know any better. Just like my mom threw me in the station wagon without a child seat, as she took country roads at 70 miles an hour. She did not know any better.

We have evolved as humans. We are committed to doing better, because darn it, these are people’s lives, and we feel they are important.

This happens to be Lynn and her important story.

Lynn’s post placement plan with the adoptive family was like most of its era in the late 90’s. Lynn was portrayed as a young, teen mom, age 16, who was involved in a relationship with a “much older” man. There was no real “medical history” that was shared. The plan was that after Lynn signed the adoption papers, pictures of her son and letters were to be sent to Lynn, to keep her updated. They were sent to ASC and the agency would send them on, taking away any identifying information. After just a few years, Lynn stopped requesting and no one kept sending them.

Lynn had moved and her life became hectic and traumatic. You would expect nothing else from her family of origin. In 2009 and again in 2011 Lynn gave birth and tried to parent her children. But addiction grabbed Lynn and wrapped her in its devastating grip. She lost custody of her children to the state and has no idea where they are or if they are even together as siblings.

In 2018, Lynn got sober and the feelings started to well, “feel” like they do. Lynn reached out to the post placement team this month and asked for an update. It took us a while to find her son’s family after so many years. But when we did the adoptive parents said, “He has never asked about her”. Adoptive mom continued to say, Andrew has always known his story and that he is adopted. He never seemed to need to know any more.

This is not okay anymore at ASC!

These adoptees need to be prompted. They need to see positive body language, have a safe space to show emotion, grief and loss of their first family.

Now I have not spoken to Andrew personally about his feelings, but I have spoken to many other adoptees who all said. “I never talked about it, as I didn’t want to hurt my parents feelings, but I always wanted to know more”.

Every single time I hear this statement from past adoptive parents, “He has never asked”. I count to three and and remind myself, this is our mistake, the mistake as adoption agencies. No one did anything intentionally wrong, but a lot of harm has been done. Enough is enough at ASC.


“Now is not a good time”

Arguably, the most important work we are doing right now at ASC is post placement care. We’ve spent the last couple of years developing our post placement program and then continually changing and adding to it as we learn more. It’s a work in progress.

Currently, it consists of a dedicated day each week, a specific phone number and email and a team ready to support all members of the triad. We are getting birth moms started in post placement counseling. We are helping birth and adoptive families navigate the logistics of their open adoptions. We’re signing adoptive families up for post placement class to prepare them for raising the part of their child’s identity that is that of an adoptee. We’re striving to create a safe space where birth families, adoptive families and adoptees can come to share and process their respective grief.

The Adoption Support Center has been facilitating adoptions since 1986. That’s going on 34 years. A lot has changed in those years. When we started, historically, adoptions were closed. We take pride in the fact we’ve always been a little ahead of the times when it comes to adoption. Since day one, we’ve been willing to change and evolve as we learn more. With that said, we still did many adoptions in the era of closed, secrecy and shame. In the era where adoptive parents were not given adequate education.

We made mistakes. Thankfully, adult adoptees, birth mothers and adoptive parents are sharing their stories. We’re learning so much from them! What we did wrong. What they needed. Now, we know more. We’re committed to doing more.

Without fail, there is a certain type of call we get each week right now. 

A certain type of email we’re responding to on post placement Fridays. Birth families are searching for their loved ones. (Note: Adoptees are searching regularly as well, but for this conversation, we’re focusing on the birth families initiating the search.) They are wanting to reconnect with the child who was placed. Sometimes it’s a birth mother reaching out, other times it’s the child she parented looking for their brother or sister who was placed for adoption. We start the process for them.

In the state of Indiana, legally, an adoptee has to be 21 years of age before they can personally search or be given information about their adoption.

When they are over 21 years old, we will often look for them directly. When we can’t find them, we’ll look for and reach out to their parents. When they are younger, we look for their adoptive parents first. As we’re making these calls and sending emails, we’re met with a common reply. An unsettling, puzzling reply.

“Now is not a good time.”

That’s what (many) adoptive parents are telling us when we reach out letting them know their child’s birth family is hoping to reconnect. “Now is not a good time.” Some give a little more information. Maybe their child is struggling with depression. Drug use/addiction. A bumpy life transition like going to college. Bullying. The list goes on. Hmmmm.

We have no doubt their child may be facing a challenge at the time. Going through something messy. Shoot, most of us are facing something hard at any given moment. Life is rarely neat and without complication. 

As we’ve listened and heard this response on repeat, we’ve got a guess at what is actually being said by adoptive parents…

“Now is not a good time for US.” We’re not ready for this. We’re scared. What if a reunion makes things worse? What if our child leaves us? What if they love their birth family more? WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR US?

But, they aren’t able to articulate that. 

If they were able to articulate the above, our response to those fears would be something like this: What if it helps?! What if your child finally has answers?! What if some of what they’ve been struggling with is related to being adopted and that specific part of their identity? And, the missing pieces. What if they can love two sets of parents? What if they can finally start to find healing? There is no perfect, right time for healing. What if the time is NOW?

Let us be clear. We do not fault adoptive parents for having these fears. They are valid. All emotions are valid. There’s probably more going on deep down as well. But, these fears left unrecognized and not given the proper space and time to be felt, and processed, can greatly impact their child. And, not in a positive way.

Only an adoptee can decide if NOW is the right time. 

We’ve also heard adoptive parents tell us, “We asked them if they want to meet their birth family and they’re not interested.” Is this true sometimes? Sure. But, we’ve heard from many (adult) adoptees that when their parents asked them if they wanted to meet their birth family, they didn’t feel safe and comfortable enough to give their real answer. Their YES. They could sense their parents discomfort. They didn’t want to hurt them. Maybe they didn’t even know how to vocalize what they needed.

The adoptive parents telling us “Now is not a good time,” were in part failed by us.

They weren’t given enough education and support. We didn’t do it on purpose. But, it happened. Now that we’ve learned and know more, we hope adoptive families will give us the chance to share this new information with them. Education and support that may be able to help their child heal! 

These days we say on repeat, adoption is complicated. It’s love and loss, joy and grief intricately woven together. We owe it to adoptees (of all eras) to give them a safe space to share their voice. And then, to genuinely listen.

This isn’t going to be easy. For anyone involved. But, it will be worth it. 


Grief, my hidden treasure.

This Saturday is my dad’s birthday (May 30th). He’d be 65 years old if he were still here. He died suddenly, unexpectedly when I was only 3 years old. I’ve often felt I didn’t have a right to grieve the loss of my father, Owen. When I shared parts of my story or someone would ask a question, I’d quickly follow it up with, “I was so little when he died. I don’t remember him. It’s ok.” 

Grief often felt self indulgent to me.

I had a beautiful childhood. One of privilege. It wasn’t perfect, as nothing ever is, but, I was loved, safe and cherished. I have a mother who is my best friend and an aunt who is my second mother. My (step) dad loved me, and still loves me, even when I relentlessly try to push him away and keep him at a distance. Amidst all of this, grief was illusive to me. Something I was chasing. And, I didn’t know what I was looking for. 

My dad died on the side of the road. On December 23rd no less. We were on our way to Florida (from Indiana) for Christmas. My mom, brother, maternal grandparents and I were all in our station wagon. My dad was driving. As the story goes, my, at the time, 32-year-old, uber healthy dad started to feel funny. Tight in the chest. Shortness of breath. Dizzy maybe. He said out loud something along the lines of, “I’m not feeling so well.” He pulled the car over and passed out. My mom and grandfather quickly pulled him out of the car. It was evident he hadn’t simply passed out. We were losing him. My mom, a practicing nurse at the time, started CPR. My grandfather helped. It wasn’t enough. He died right there. On the side of the highway. My brother and I were in the car. 

My mom blames herself. She thinks if she had performed CPR better he’d still be here. Somewhere deep inside, she knows that’s not the case. She and my grandfather did everything they could to save him. An autopsy later revealed he had a heart defect. He had recently had the flu/pneumonia, and likely the infection combined with his heart, caused his death. No one could have saved him. At some point his heart would have been compromised by something. 

I don’t (cognitively) remember any of it. Nothing. I’ve heard stories. Those have shaped some “memories.” Though I don’t “remember,” something changed on that day. I was forever different. I suffered a loss so profound grief became etched in my DNA. On a physical, primal level, I wasn’t the same. Three year olds may not hold memories in the traditional sense, but based on what I now know, they remember. Their bodies remember. Their hearts and souls do too. 

It’s no wonder I now work in field cloaked in grief.

Gosh, I’m not sure where I could find more grief if I tried. Working in adoption, you’re confronted with the triad of grief. The infertility grief an adoptive family brings to table. The grief a birth mother experiences when she places her child in the arms of another. And equally as important, the grief an adoptee feels. Her life began with loss. Trauma. She was born into one family. Raised in another. There’s possibly no loss quite like it. 

We can’t intimately know another’s grief.

I’ll never know the hurt of a couple trying to start their family, only to be faced with disappointment, loss and heartbreak time and time again. I can’t begin to imagine what a birth mother feels when she finds herself in a time and place unable to parent her child and thus she walks out of the hospital empty handed. And, I don’t know the pain of an adoptee who feels there is hole in her heart. Something missing. Curious about where she came from. Desperate for answers. Wanting to understand. 

But, I do know grief. In the depths of my soul, I know it. I haven’t always been able to find it. But, it’s there. I once attended a continuing education class (for my social work license) on grief and children. Basically, how to help children grieve. We were practicing exercises to use with kids. As one activity, we were given paper and crayons. Told to draw grief. It was left at that. I grabbed the yellow and black crayons and started creating. I wasn’t thinking. Just drawing. This is what ended up on my paper. 

A few minutes later, we were asked to share our picture with the group. Describe it. I wasn’t exactly sure what I had drawn but I started talking. “I think this is my grief. This hidden treasure. And, it’s buried. If I can dig deep enough to get to it, uncover and unearth it, I’ll have found the gold, the gift. If I can hold it and get to know it, I can begin to heal.” 

My entire life I’ve been trying to uncover my grief.

Trying to let it breath. I now have the sacred honor and privilege of helping others in the adoption triad do the same. I get to be a guide and support. I wish I knew how to better help them. How to make their pain go away. I don’t. I don’t have any of the answers. I’m just now starting to learn how to help myself. But, I’m not afraid of walking with them. Of guiding them to their grief, their buried treasure, and sitting next to them in their pain. Because grief was written in the depths of me the day my father died. It’s a part of who I am. One of my favorite authors, Glennon Doyle Melton, writes, “Grief, like joy, is holy. Grief is love’s souvenir. It’s our proof that we once loved.” Maybe we shouldn’t be so afraid of it at all. 

The night before my father died, we were staying in a hotel. My brother was in a bed with my mom, and I was sleeping next to my dad. He turned to my mom as I lay next to him asleep and said, “have you ever seen anything more beautiful in your life?” 

There are no videos of my dad. I’ve never heard his voice. I have only a few pictures. There were no letters left for me (from him). But, he left me with a gift. He left me with this grief. My hidden treasure. I’m able to walk with others as they hunt for their treasure too. It’s the humbling work of my life. It’s freakin’ hard most days. But, I was made for this. And, he’s with me. Every step of the way. 

Happy 65th birth to my father, Owen, who left me with his love and this grief, too. I will forever work to find it, and in turn I know I’ll be making my way back to you.


COVID Statement

Dear Friends~

Everyone on staff at the Adoption Support Center is anxious to get back into the agency to collaborate and support all families in the adoption journey.

As this is an evolving situation, we continue to monitor this situation in real-time to ensure the proper precautions are being taken so everyone feels safe.

Since the agency is in Marion county, we are following the guidelines of this county. We are considered essential business; we have a staff person in the office every day. All other staff has been and will continue to work remotely.

June 1st we are moving to phase 2.

We are allowing two staff members in the agency at the same time, while practicing social distancing. We are allowing coordinators to meet with new expectant mom’s, practicing social distancing in an outdoor environment, with PPE. We will start having prospective adoptive families meeting expectant mom’s after a video or phone conference has happened, if both parties wish and feel safe.

Lots more telecom meetings and less time as a group in the agency together.

All education classes, home studies, office interviews, and planning meetings will continue being done via Zoom. The post placement visit will be done in the adoptive family’s home, taking all the possible safeguards we can.

We plan on staying at phase 2 until we see how the city handles the children going back to school.

The agency is not equipped for outdoor visits at this time, however families are welcome to use the agency as a meeting point and take a walk together, as the weather permits. Keep in mind, there are no restroom facilities currently available.

As all of you, we are aware there will be a new normal! We envision Phase 3 being our new normal for a while. Lots more telecom meetings and less time as a group in the agency together. More on how Phase 3 will look as the city decides what best for our children come August.

Thanks for your understanding and STAY SAFE!


Commitment

This sweet family’s picture slid into my email at the end of last week. They were reaching out to share a photo from the recent virtual adoption finalization of their son. As an agency, we haven’t been sharing “finalization” photos much lately. As I looked at this beautiful family woven together through adoption, and thought about their story, I knew we had to share it. 

For many, adoptive families and outsiders looking in, court day is often a big day.

It’s seen as an ending. A culmination of a journey. A final stamp of “you are officially and legally a family!” And, it is a very special day. But, it’s not an ending at all. It’s truly the beginning of a journey.

It’s when the real work begins. The work of parenting and raising a child. The sacred work of raising a kiddo where part of their identity is that of being an adoptee. Supporting, guiding, walking with them as they learn and explore their story and identity. It’s the work of keeping promises made to birth families and leaving room for relationships to grow with time. It’s holding space for your child’s pain and trauma and a willingness to sit with them in it. 

The day a family finalizes their adoption in court has sometimes been coined, “gotcha day.” We used to refer to it as that until members of the triad starting pointing out the problems with that phrase and some other phrases commonly used. “Gotcha day” infers ownership. You are now ours. We gotcha! I’d argue a child, biological or adopted, belongs to no one. They belong to themselves. To god. To the universe. I’ve often heard in adoption circles we should be asking “not who does this child belong to, but rather who belongs to this child.” 

Some then moved from “gotcha day” to “family day.” Others let their child name the day once they are old enough to do so and even let their child decide if they want to celebrate it or not. We’re moving in the right direction! Thank goodness adoptees, birth mothers and adoptive families are sharing their experiences and insights with us! Let’s keep leaning in and listening! 

Back to the sweet family in this photo.

This family has adopted through us twice now. We’ve watched them learn, grow and lean in. They recently attended our post placement class (virtually of course due to current circumstances). We ask all families to attend this class prior to finalizing their adoption. There’s no way we could cover all the things in this two hour class. But we give it our best shot and dive in head first! We look at open adoption as a lifelong relationship. We talk logistics. We process grief. The varying grief all members of the triad bring to the table. We work to spark a passion for continued adoption education. Specifically to seek out and listen to the voices of adoptees and birth mothers. We talk about raising an adoptee and how to do that well. 

During their class as we’re talking about hard things, this adoptive mom said something along the lines of, “I know my son may some day want to spend holidays with his birth family. He may have to navigate multiple families and where do I go when. And, I have to be ok with that. I have to give him space to explore. He doesn’t belong to me. I have the honor, privilege and joy of raising him, yes, but he is not mine. And, I want to make sure he knows I’ll support him in whatever he needs. Even though it may not always be easy for me.” 

In that moment, I knew. She gets it. I was filled with hope and encouragement that if we keep doing this work, more families are going to get it too. When this photo popped up in my email, I didn’t see just around “finalization” photo. I saw love, joy, AND most importantly, commitment. 

That’s what I want to rename this day.

COMMITMENT DAY! In this photo, like so many of our other families too, I saw a commitment to their family. To their children. To their children’s birth families. To promises made. I saw a commitment to honor their children’s stories. To be both honest and vulnerable. To sit in the hard with their kids. 

As this photo was snapped, they may have just legally finalized their adoption, but I know (and they know) what really took place in those few special moments. They made a commitment to a lifelong (adoption) journey of love.


Adoptive Families, Questions you need to be asking.

As we were recently doing some spring cleaning around the office, we came across this book, Adopting in America: How to Adopt Within One Year. We also stumbled across Adopt the Baby You Want. Not sure any of us have read (or recently read) these books as they were written in 1993 and 1990, respectively. We can’t really speak to the content inside. But, the titles alone caught our eye! They screamed, especially the first one, “Adoptive parents, let’s talk about the fastest route to your baby!” And, “Find the professional that is quick, quick, quick! It’s all about speed!” And the end result, a baby.

Along with other recent blogs and posts we’ve read among the adoption community (we’re not the first to write about this), it got us thinking…what are prospective adoptive families looking for in an adoption professional? These are the people, the organization, tasked with helping you start/grow your family. It’s an incredibly important decision. Historically (as seen in above mentioned books ), it’s safe to assume the most common answer to this question is cost and wait time. It makes sense! Adoption is expensive. In many aspects of life it’s natural to do your research and pick the most cost effective route. In regards to wait time, families adopting are ready to be parents. They’ve likely been trying to start/grow their family for a good amount of time. How can we fault them for seeking the fastest path to their baby? And, we as adoption professionals easily fall into this mindset at times too.

As a larger adoption community across the United States, we’re starting to talk more about what adoptive families NEED to be looking for in an adoption professional.

Should families still be looking for information on cost and wait times? Absolutely. Adoptive families should expect upfront, honest information about cost and where specifically their money will be going and what it will be covering. It’s also reasonable for families to be given average expected wait times. This can help them prepare for the wait. However, if adoptive families are choosing an adoption agency solely on cost and wait times, likely we may be missing the bigger picture…

What if prospective adoptive families started asking different questions? Started looking for more then the quickest road to their baby? And, adoption professionals stopped “selling” it as such. What if we all looked at adoption as a lifelong journey? An often beautiful, yet also complex relationship between adoptive family, birth family, and adoptee. The adoption professional a family chooses will be a guide, teacher and support as they raise their child, specifically the part of their child that is an adoptee. We have to imagine their questions might start to look something like this…

How do you treat your expectant mothers? What kind of care do they get pre placement? Are they encouraged to explore options outside of adoption? Are you coercive in any way? Do you let her see her baby at the hospital? Do you make her pay back living expense money received if she doesn’t proceed with an adoption? Do expectant moms have access to their own attorney? What about birth fathers? What is your philosophy on open adoption? Do you help birth and adoptive families navigate their open adoption after placement? What support and education do you provide prospective adoptive families? What kind of language do you use when talking about adoption adoption? What post placement services and support do you provide for birth mothers? For adoptive families? FOR ADOPTEES?…

Wow, that’s a lot! Not quite as simple as asking, “how much does it cost?” and “when will we have our baby?” Adoptive families deserve more! They should expect answers to all of the above questions. They deserve to know who is guiding them as they start their family and will impact how it happens. They deserve to know how their future child’s birth family will be treated both pre and post placement. All of this becomes a part of their child’s story. It has lasting implications. For an adoptive family, their adoption journey doesn’t end the day their child is placed in their arms. It begins.

We hope to continue to answer these important questions for you. We strive to be as honest and transparent as possible. There’s a lot we do well. And, there are areas where we need to improve. Keep asking us the hard questions. And, keep expecting answers. Adoptive parents, birth parents, AND adoptees deserve this and so much more.


Adoption in the midst of Covid-19

We are living in unprecedented times. Along with so many others around the state, country and world, we are navigating this uncharted territory one day at time. Fear and anxiety are natural reactions to the Covid-19 pandemic. We are right there with you, walking through these complex emotions. We are also filled with hope and anticipation as we watch people come together to fight this thing and protect the most vulnerable.

What does all of this mean for adoption? Earlier this week, the state of Indiana declared a “shelter in place” order. This means outside of seeking medical care, running essential errands like the grocery or drug store, or conducting essential business, you should stay home. The goal is to stop the spread of the virus. Adoption services are considered essential, allowing us to continue this work. However, we are staying home and staying put as much as possible. Luckily the virtual world is allowing us to do much of our work from home so we can do our part to social distance and hopefully flatten the curve.

If you are an expectant mom, birth mother, prospective adoptive family or recent adoptive family, you may be wondering, how is this going to affect my adoption process!? We don’t have all the answers, however, we can assure you we are going to continue this work we are so passionate about and we will support each of you to the best of our ability amidst all of this uncertainty. Hopefully you find some answers below to potential questions you may have!

What if I am an expectant mom considering adoption and I’m just starting this process!

Call us! Our phones are still answered 24 hours a day! You’ll be met by a friendly voice who can help you start this process. When you’d usually meet an adoption coordinator in person, right now you’ll likely meet them first over the phone. You’ll even have the option to video chat with them! We can mail or email you information about adoption, your options, our agency, and prospective adoptive family profiles. And when you’re comfortable, we can come and meet you in person!

What if I am an expectant mom already in the process of considering adoption but I haven’t met the prospective adoptive family yet and I am ready to do so?

Don’t worry! If you are ready to meet a prospective adoptive family but we are still social distancing, you can meet them via phone or video chat to start! We actually had 3 of these meetings this week and they went great! Your coordinator can still be “with you” on these calls for support and help just as they would be in person. And when you’re comfortable, you can meet the family in person as well!

What if I am an expectant mom considering adoption, I already met the prospective adoptive family, and now I’m wondering, can I continue to see them during my pregnancy? What are my options?

We’re so glad you got to meet them before “shelter in place” went into effect! For now, we recommend you continue to get to know them via phone and/or video chat. Based on everyone’s comfort level you’ll hopefully be able to meet up with them in person again soon!

What if I am an expectant mom and delivery is very soon? Who can be at the hospital with me?

Right now, most hospitals are only allowing one person to be with you. No other visitors. This could change again at some point, but this is what we are experiencing right now. You are in charge. You get to pick who is with you. It might be a family member or friend. It might be one of the adoptive parents. It could even be birth father or maybe you want to labor on your own. The important thing to know is you get to make this decision. You may be thinking, but I want both my family and the adoptive parents with me. Sadly, that may not be able to happen right now. We get this is hard. Know we will support whatever decision you make.

I am an expectant mom and I just delivered my baby. I want to continue with my adoption plan. Am I still able to sign consents? What if the adoptive family isn’t with me right now? Can I still do an adoption?

If you just delivered or will soon deliver your baby, and want to proceed with an adoption plan, you still can. Maybe you’ve already been in contact with us. Maybe not. Either way, we are here. Hospitals are continuing to allow the attorney to come and meet with you to sign adoption consents. In some cases they are allowing our adoption coordinators to come in as well, in some cases they are not. Either way, you can still continue with your adoption plan. If the adoptive family is not able to be at the hospital during labor/delivery with you or in the days after, you can still proceed with an adoption. We will work out the details of how and when you meet adoptive family and baby is placed with them on a case by case basis.

What if I am a birth mother and I recently placed my baby for adoption? Can I still get post placement support?

Yes! Yes! Yes! Whether you placed your baby a week ago or years ago, we are here for you. We offer post placement support services and counseling. The first step is to reach out to our post placement team at either 317-255-5916 or myadoptioncenter@gmail.com. Our post placement team answers these calls and emails on Fridays. They will be able to support you and connect you to a counselor if desired. Post placement counseling is continuing as well! Counseling sessions are taking place virtually right now either by phone or video. We will resume in person counseling when able.

What if I am a birth mother or an adoptive family and we have a visit coming up? What should we do?

Right now, we are recommending birth and adoptive families postpone any visits currently scheduled. This is not canceling a visit, rather it is rescheduling it a little bit out. We have no idea when in person visits should resume. It could be a few weeks, it could be a month or two. We’ll follow the lead of our community leaders on social distancing and shelter in place recommendations, and when able, we’ll encourage you to have that visit you postponed! In the meantime, it might be a great time to catch up via text, phone, or video chat!

What if I am an prospective adoptive family thinking about adoption, however, we haven’t attended your seminar yet or signed on with you? Do we need to wait until all this is over to take next steps?

No, call us! We are still accepting new adoptive families and can start the process for you. We may even hold informational seminars via Zoom!

What if we are a prospective adoptive family already signed on with you, but still in the middle of our home study process? What does this mean for us?

We will continue to walk with you as you complete your home study. Classes, meetings and interviews may be held via video conference for now, and then, when able we will make our way to your home for required home visits.


What if we are an active adoptive family with you? What does this mean for us?

You profile is continuing to be shown to expectant mamas considering adoption. If you are chosen during this time, you will likely be meeting your expectant mom via phone or video chat for the first time. Your coordinator will likely still be present for that call for help and support. Their may be restrictions at the hospital when expectant mom delivers. We will walk with you through that time and guide you best we can based on the wishes of your expectant mom and restrictions at that time.

What if we are an adoptive family and our baby was placed with us recently in the last few weeks or months? What will this mean for finalization?

If you already completed your post placement visit and class, you’ll likely still be able to finalize in the time frames we estimate. You’ll likely be finalizing from home over video! Your attorney will guide you through that process. If you haven’t completed your post placement home visit or class yet, we’ll be reaching out to you on a case by case basis to help you with next steps.

Hopefully, some of the information above has been helpful to you! There are still a lot of unknowns and things that may change. The above is our best answer right now. Please know some of this may continue to change as circumstances evolve over the next few days, weeks. We’ll continue to do our best to keep you informed and updated, and know we will be here to support and guide you every step of the way! It’s our honor and privilege to continue to serve you. Thank you for trusting us in your adoption journey. As so many have said, we are in this together.